Across the nation and throughout NJ, reminiscent of the White Citizens Councils that attempted to lend legitimacy to KKK inspired efforts to thwart civil rights progress, so called “parents groups” have been mobilizing and pressuring school boards and administrations to roll back the clock on advances to how history is taught in public schools. After years of struggle – including in NJ leading to the passage of the Amistad Act – public schools made improvements to better represent the truth about US history regarding enslavement, racism and genocide against Indigenous Nations. There is a well funded and concerted effort being promoted by right wing elected officials with corporate backed “astroturf” funding to pander to these groups – exacerbating this attack. Many states including Texas, Tennessee and elsewhere have completely obliterated the ability to educate historic truths and these groups are starting to make inroads in NJ districts.
NJ law under the Amistad Act requires the representation of these truths in NJ curriculum. While the Amistad Act has yet to be effectively implemented across the board, the law provides a means for communities to demand inclusion of relevant Black History and other diversified history curriculum.
This proposal is to form a network – for now referred to as Amistad Defenders – NJ – to organize support for the truth in NJ public education – to rally to defend districts facing such attacks on the curriculum and to come up with a concerted plan to push this attack back – first in NJ and then to lend support for similar responses in other states.
Proposed Action Plan
The following are some suggested steps:
Initial Launch Discussions with prominent education voices to delineate this issue, lay out the action plan and delineate what is at stake. Discussions can be in person and via zoom, etc.
Draft Statement of teachers and other school professionals, students, academics, community and other supporters defending truthful teaching of history in NJ schools, denouncing these attacks from right wing extremists, calling upon districts to resist these pressures and demanding the full implementation of Amistad Act once and for all.
Mobilization at board meetings where these issues are beign discussed and possibly holding of protest rallies against these attacks.
Issue Responses to each of these ‘controversies’ at the district level as they arise.
Create Network of organizations and individuals dedicated to joining this fight.
Staff effort with at least one compensated coordinator – more if possible – supported through fundraising as well as from fund support from participating organizations
Potential Organizational and Individual Resources
One prominent NJ initiative that can hopefully play a key role is MAPSO Freedom School. This teachers led organization has already consistently organized around these curriculum issues and regularly hosts topical events around these issues. They are solidly networked with faculty, students and advocates throughout the state.
Another organization that has led marches demanding full implementation of the Amistad Act is Peoples Organization for Progress.
Melissa Tomlinson of Bad Ass Teachers has called for similar actions and Black Lives Matter advocate Kason Little has endorsed such action.
Newark teacher and co-founder of Newark Anti-Violence Coalition Bashir Muhammad Ptah Akinyele recently called for complete Amistad Act implementation.
Principal Baruti Kafele a well known NJ advocate of Black History is likely also to be supportive.
Critical to the success of this effort will be staffing a fully supported effort . Initially we should set out to develop funding for one fulltime staff. The tasks of the staff would be to monitor the developments around the state, engage discussion with the active participants and carry out the plan of actions. We can promote a funding site once we decide the best way to administer the funding. Participating organizations with the resources should be encouraged also to provide consistent support for the staffing.
The following is a list of individuals and organizations supporting this effort:
Some of the threats in NJ needing fightback
Town Council in Woodbrige, NJ Silent, Duplicitous as Residents Voice Opposition to Proud Boys in Meeting – Idavox
Controversy Stirs Over Censorship Of Hillsborough Student’s Art | Hillsborough, NJ Patch
Controversy Stirs Over Censorship Of Hillsborough Student’s Art – Hillsborough, NJ – The poster was part of an African American display in the Hillsborough Middle School depicting a point of view around policing in America.
Letter: A Proud Black American Reflects On Westfield’s Toni Morrison Book Controversy | Westfield, NJ News TAPinto
Someone described the entire book as pornographic, Really? Last time I checked, pornography is sold in the adult section of a corner store.
Westfield Parents Object to Toni Morrison Book. Curriculum Approval on Hold | Westfield, NJ News TAPinto
Parents raised concerns about the novel “The Bluest Eye” being included in the curriculum for the course entitled “American Studies.”
Following states adopted KKK social studies curriculum:
An ‘exclusive’ interview with Rhode Island’s Critical Race Karen’s Black friend – TheGrio
Writer Michael Harriot courageously tracks down the “Black friend” described in Rhode Island State Rep. Patricia Morgan’s now viral tweet.
Schools could face penalties if they teach race or gender issues | wbir.com
It’s a concept that’s caused heated debate from families all across Tennessee: how to teach about race in the classroom.
Join the fightback – Here are the groups and initiatives organizing around this issue: